Monday, 25 June 2018

Many on the Genny - 40 miles for my 40th birthday

I signed up for this race almost a year ago because it was too perfect - a 40 mile race, fairly close to home, a week after my 40th birthday?!

I've been hashtagging #seeyaatthedam for months. 
Finally at the dam.
Race morning started with a jolt, as I had set my alarm for 3:15, but due to the blasting a/c in the hotel room, didn't hear it until 3:25.  Then I took too long in the bathroom.  There is a shuttle from the finish to the start.  In the pre-race emails we were warned that the shuttle would leave at 5 am SHARP and they were not joking, as I arrived to the finish at 5:00:30 to see the buses pulling out of the parking lot.  So I had no choice but to follow the buses to the start, which was only 2.5K straight uphill from my hotel but about 8K from the finish. I definitely wasn't the only one who missed the bus as there were quite a few cars there.

Tip #1: get to the shuttle early!

The race started promptly at 6, running back downhill. There were a few familiar faces, Jeff and Heather from Happy Trails and Lizzy. I saw a LOT of people with poles.  I don't own poles and I'd probably like them but I would like to try them out first before buying. After a couple of minutes, I looked behind me and thought, "shit I am already last?!" 

I think this was the first quick pass
 through the start area, less than 5K in.
I was going back and forth with a guy from Michigan, and another guy in an orange shirt, who had done the race last year.  I was chatting with MI dude when Orange Shirt whistled at us, we missed a turn and were off course by maybe 100 m.  Fortunately, that was the only time I went off course all day.

Tip #2 - wear quick drying clothing!

We were told by the RD in the pre-race briefing that there was a water crossing at 7 miles.  He didn't mention it was really deep.  The water went up to my waist. My skirt didn't dry very quickly and I was still wringing water out several hours later.

You can see how deep the water was from Orange Shirt.
Directly on the other side of the water crossing.  
My watch specs say that the battery lasts 10 hours in "best" GPS mode and I knew I'd be over that, so I put the GPS mode to "good". After a couple of hours, I started to see some funny stuff, like my pace being 1:30/km when hiking a hill, but the splits were still reasonable numbers, so I didn't worry too much until I asked Orange Shirt what distance he had. "13 or 14 miles?" My watch was showing over 25K.

The aid station at the halfway point was a highlight of the race.  The theme was auto racing/pit stop and the volunteers got my drop box, handed me a freezie and refilled my hydration pack, so that I could focus on stuffing food in my face.  I was wearing my Altra Lone Peaks and felt pretty good so I did not change shoes or socks.  I was told that the next aid station was in 7 miles.

The scenery at the halfway point was also the most beautiful.  I can't remember now if I heard about the race first, or saw pictures of the waterfalls at Letchworth, but it was a huge reason why I signed up.

Lower Falls.  Just awful scenery.
So terrible.

Nothing to see here.
I thought only Orange Shirt was behind me, but I came across two girls, one of whom greeted me with, "I love your Dona Jo skirt!" to which I replied, "I love it when people know where my clothes are from, instead of asking what brand it is."  I'll be honest, I tried to drop these two girls several times, taking off when they were taking pictures and running hard on easy sections, but they caught me every time.  Kudos to them!

The distance showing on my watch was totally bonkers by now, so I said to the girls, "hasn't it been awhile since the last aid station? they said 7 miles and it's been 2 and a half hours!" Nope, we had only gone about 10K.  It was raining off and on, and there were many muddy streams gullies with a steep step down, and then a climb back up.  It reminded me of The Bad Thing.

Tip #3 - don't rely on the aid stations

There were only 4 aid stations (plus one self serve water station) for the 40 miles.  They were at least 7-9 miles apart.  I was carrying enough food for about 30K and I usually grab fruit or pop at the AS.  One minute, I felt fine and the next I was very dizzy, I sat down on a log and the two girls finally passed me.  A third lady turned out to be right behind them and asked how long it had been since I had eaten.  Oh the last aid station, well over an hour ago.  I pulled out an e-beet, took one bite, and it happened, I blew chunks everywhere.  A first for me, I have definitely dry heaved after 5Ks, but never, ever have I puked during a race.  I got down the rest of the bar and it stayed down, surprisingly after a few minutes I felt much better and got up to continue.  The lady, Torrie, stayed with me.  It was her first ultra but she got me going again like a veteran! Another lady, Jen from Long Island was also with us. This part was really, really slow, but I kept referring back to my mantras, 'relentless forward motion' which is on the bracelet that I wear always, and my arm tat, 'sometimes, the moments that challenge us the most, define us."

Turns out that one of the two girls was Torrie's SIL, and she kept calling Torrie to see how I was doing and when they had reached the next aid station, they alerted them to the fact that I had been sick.  This last station was manned by jokers.  It was located 4 miles from the finish and 8 miles from the previous station.  I had started using my old Garmin 210 at exactly 30 miles (according to Torrie's SIL's watch) so we were startled to see a sign at 35 miles saying "1 mile to aid!" but then right after that, around a bend, another sign that said, "haha 0.25 to the station!" Way to fuck with the minds of ultrarunners!

The volunteers at the last aid station took great care of me.  I sat down for a few minutes, ate watermelon, oranges, Coke, a dill pickle and a handful of swedish fish - in that order, OMG! Torrie went ahead and the volunteers assured me that it was 4.5 miles to the finish and net downhill.  I could still run pretty well on clear trail and I ran the last km or so hard to the finish.

There was a local delicacy, the garbage plate, at the finish and I couldn't bring myself to have any.  But I did have my beer! and Long Island Jen was kind enough to drive me back to my car at the start.

I can't say enough amazing things about this race.  Challenging distance, gorgeous scenery..fantastic volunteers and fellow runners!  Definitely made my first week of being 40 memorable.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Conquering the Canuck

Party with the Varty, me, Grace, Neil, Cody

I only registered for Conquer the Canuck 25K because Coach Heather had assigned a 25K long run for the week.  I ran the 25K previously in 2016, and I remember it being hot as balls and a very slow race.  So when the weather forecast started looking promising, I thought surely I could manage a course PB?

Someone plunked out O Canada on a keyboard (note to self: volunteer to play next year!) and we were off.  I started off running with Neil and Cody was run/walking so we were passing each other every few minutes.  I chose to walk a hill, but Neil took off, so I ran with Cody until he had to make a pit stop and I was alone.  

At the end of the first loop (the course was 3x8.3K), I saw that I was on pace to hit all my goals.  I was passing a lot of people.  There was a woman who would bolt out in front, then suddenly stop, or completely ignored the course marking and turn the wrong way and then jump back on course right in front of me.  I was very glad to drop her!

The results say that I ran the 2nd loop really fast, a good 10 minutes faster than the 1st loop..I felt good but I find that pretty hard to believe.

I finally caught up with Neil again, he had calf cramps so I gave him my salt pills, which unfortunately did not help his problem.  I felt like I should have stayed with him, but PB GOALS man! so I kept pushing hard.

The loop was slightly different from 2016; I remember going farther past the start/finish area, and that part was more open, nasty on a hot and sunny day but mentally harder as well.  This year, we only went 1K or less past the finish and then a very fast slight downhill finish.
I thought I might have placed in my age group, and I probably would have, if I hadn't been in the huge "under 39" group!

3 minute distance PB
GINORMOUS 25 minute course PB!
📷by Cody

Well, I will enjoy the last 6 days of my 30's while tapering and carbing up for MOTG.
I don't think my new age group is slower. NOT AT ALL.
Sarah Marie Design Studio

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Sulphur 50K - 2018 edition

It's now been 3 years since my first 50K and my secret goal was to PB, or at least go sub 7 hours.  But alas, the weather gods had other plans.  I felt very well trained, running similar mileage to 100K a year ago. Then I watched the daily high go up and up on the forecast..and I knew my only goals were to have fun and not have the day turn into a sufferfest.

I was determined to get to the start EARLY and have a repeat of last year's insane rush to the start.  It was overcast but not as horribly humid as in 2016.  The first 10K felt fantastic, the cloud cover and breeze kept it from being too hot and I ran straight through the start/finish without stopping.  

The 2nd loop was my favourite - it is no secret that I hate seeing people when doing training runs, but the awesome thing about Sulphur is that there are so many familiar friendly faces.  I saw K guiding Tim (nice to finally see you in person, Tim!) and David and Steve running the 100 mile.

I was hitting or surpassing all my usual time standards (15K in 2 hours, half marathon in under 3 hours) then suddenly...passed 25K in 3:37 so dreams of sub 7 was gone. Normally when goals slip away, my mental strength to do anything besides finish goes out the window as well.  I gave myself a little pep talk, I could still manage my 2nd best 50K time if I kept pushing. Passed Vince on Martin Road, he told me that Greg was at the finish when I was finishing up 30K.  Yes, Greg was there...handing out medals! 

Impulsively, I asked if Greg would run the last bit with me, to meet me at the aid station at the lollipop start.  Then I set off on the final 20K, a short countdown until I picked up my pacer. I came around the corner to see the lollipop aid station and saw Greg talking to Kathy, I refilled my bladder and we started out.  Literally two seconds later:

So graceful. At least he didn't actually face plant.
I told Greg there would be lots of walking on the Three Bitches, of course, but since it was the first time since 2015 that I didn't have giant blisters on my feet, I would run the glorious cornfield downhill, the best part of the course. 

I forced myself to keep moving on the final climb up Martin Rd., Greg ran ahead to get some video.

The girl did get her beer.
Another successful training cycle almost complete - 2 weeks until my 40th birthday, and 3 weeks until my birthday goal race: 40 miles (for 40 years) at Many on the Genny.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

2017 wasn't all bad.

Starting off with numbers again:

2017:  3047.7K (5 planned runs remaining). In 2016 I ran 3132.8K and thought that it would be easy to run the year (2017 miles) or pass 2000 miles with the mileage that I would rack up training for Sulphur 100K.  I'm determined to be over 2000 miles in 2018 and I have signed up for the 2000 Miles 1 Year challenge to keep me on track.  I am going to check on my annual mileage earlier so that I can pick it up to meet my goal, if necessary.

Cycling: 216.7K.  I'd rather run.  It's always too damn windy, too cold, too hot, too many cars around...which is why I'm considering selling Audrey and getting a MTB instead.

Events: 1 road race (1 DNF), 9 trail races - 3 ultras.

Badges: 1 - Maitland Trail E2E.

Some of the highlights of the year:

  • my first snowshoe race.
  • discovering floating.
  • my first 100K.
  • my first (and probably last) Ragnar relay.
  • ending the year with a string of good races, which I attribute to my lucky Burly trucker hat.

I turn 40 in June 2018, and I have some amazing events planned.

  • Volunteering at an aid station after running 50K at Sulphur.  I have always wanted to experience the overnight madness at a 100 miler!
  • 40 miles at Many on the Genny the weekend after my birthday.  There will be a 40K training run and also the annual 19.78K run on my actual birthday.
  • Triple Crane trail running and yoga retreat in Michigan with my friends Shannon and Darek.
  • A trip to the Maritimes for the inaugural 5peaks Round the Cape 48K.
And as always...have fun and look good doing it!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Fat Ass Trail Run 6 hour

I was so tempted to sign up for the 50K, as it was a dirt cheap $20 for the no-frills option.  But after my experience running 2 50Ks in close succession last fall, I knew it would be a bad idea and signed up for the 6 hour instead, where you had to do a minimum of 4x7.5K loops to be considered a finisher.  

My only other experience with a 6 hour race was pretty craptastic and barring total disaster, I'd be able to PB.  In addition, I thought I'd aim a little bit higher and go for 5 loops.

I couldn't afford another motel room, so I stayed at my parents' in Toronto the night before and that cut the driving time in half.

Home base was the chalet at Batawa Ski Hill, with races of varying distances from 4-50K+ doing various combinations of the 7.5K and a 10K loop.  There was a tent at the bottom of the ski hill that marked the start/finish/aid station for the 6 hour race.

I left my overnight bag in the chalet and took my drop box out to the aid station.  It was pretty cold and I tried to borrow arm warmers, without luck.  Thankfully, once I started running, I warmed up.

The race started by going up the ski hill, which was snowy at the bottom from recent snowmaking.  At the top, there was some softer snow which was difficult to wade through.  Then the loop went into the woods and right back down the back of the ski hill.
about halfway up the hill.

The loop was described on the website as 'lots of elevation' and I didn't find this to be true at all.  After that first initial hill, the loop was entirely flat and runnable for at least 5K.  This year, there were some knee deep icy puddles to cross, which totally sucked during the first loop but then subsequent times was a lot less horrible due to feet already being wet and cold.

no way out but through!
After my favourite part of the loop, singletrack through forest, there was a short but steep climb back up the ski hill, then about 1.5K of mildly technical trail along the top of the ridge and back down a really steep hill to approach the finish from the opposite direction.  Parts of the final hill was snow and ice covered, and I wish I had the nerve to handle downhills Kilian-style..and the other option would be to slide down on my butt, but that would have wrecked my clothes, since there wasn't that much snow, just enough to be slippery.

screenshot: Kilian jornet burgada
Loop 1 went by really quickly and I saw the participants gathering for the start of the shorter distances and suddenly felt uneasy about my overnight bag with my laptop inside left at the chalet, so I called Matt (who was crewing/cheering) to haul it over to the start/finish so that I could see it every loop.  The 2nd loop was the worst, as trails were more crowded, and lots of people being super newbie-ish (whining about hills, mud, puddles, passing without warning, tailgaiting) but thankfully things cleared up again by the 3rd loop.

I met up with Burly teammate and super hardcore badass Party With the Varty, he was having pain in his foot and some end of season burnout.  I haven't really talked to him much before this race, and his company was a pleasant distraction from the later stages of the race.  

It was tempting to quit after 4 loops, as that was the minimum distance needed to be considered a finisher, but I said I wanted to run 5 loops, and with 1:30 left for the final loop, it was entirely doable.  David and I finished with about 10 minutes left and immediately someone asked if we wanted a beer.  It turned out to be the top finisher in the 6 hour, he brought enough beer to share!

Now to enjoy a few weeks of casual off-season running before training for 2018!

Monday, 23 October 2017

The Bad Thing 50K

I've carried the flavour memory of the delicious cream puffs for an entire year.  I was given a couple after volunteering to sweep and pick up flags at The Bad Thing and they were so unbelievably amazing.  

The race registration opened at midnight back in February and sold out by noon the next day, I was lucky to get a spot!  Drove out to Goderich in horrible Friday afternoon traffic, sucked down carbs and beer with Bogdan and Shaun and settled in for the night.

The Burlies went with a new company for the fall gear sale, and when I saw they had skirts, I HAD to get one and received it on Friday night.  Since I like to live dangerously, I wore it for the race. I had my trusty 2Toms, what could possibly go wrong?  Except that when I was rummaging in my drop box o' ultra gear...I had forgotten to bring it! So I put a piece of industrial strength medical tape on each thigh and hoped for the best.

I drove to the finish in Auburn, and we boarded a bus to the surprise start location, which turned out to be the Huron Historic Gaol.  We ran down the steps of the jail, and about 1K of road before reaching the Maitland Trail.

Stuck in the slammer.
Shaun and I were going to run together, but he was way ahead by the time I got to the bottom of the stairs at the start of the trail.  Soon, I let a group of about 5 people pass me, and I was alone.

sunrise along the Maitland River
The Bad Thing is not recommended for novice trail runners, and the point to point format is a reason why.  Although there are flags marking the entire route, there are long sections with fewer flags and participants are expected to follow blazes.  I went off course 3 separate times during the race, and fortunately I never had to backtrack more than about 200 metres.  

There was about 1 cm of bare skin between the bottom of the shorts attached to the skirt and my medical tape, and it started to chafe.  At the second aid station, we were allowed to drop our headlamps, but they had no lube, but the volunteers said they would call ahead to the next aid station to have some for me.  I understand this would be much more difficult to manage logistically, but I really wish we would have been allowed drop bags.  

Inner thighs still burning, I ran on and at 15K came the namesake hill, The Bad Thing, which we had to run up and back down.  I honestly didn't think the hill was that bad, I felt Martin Rd at Sulphur was much more soul-sucking.

Running down The Bad Thing. 
It looks like I shat myself, but it's just mud.  Really!

A big reason why I chose The Bad Thing as my A race was because of the generous 10 hour cutoff.  There were also cutoffs for each aid station, but I didn't pay very close attention to those.  So I was pretty shocked to see the RD running towards me at around 17K. "You're NOT shutting me down for missing cutoffs after 17K?!" Turns out he came to save me with tape and Glide! 

There were definitely some rooty technical sections in the first half, but I was surprised by how much of it was flat and very runnable.  There also was a bit of road, which I wish wasn't there, but when the race is E2E on a trail, some road is inevitable.  

At 31K, I passed someone.  I talked to him a bit, he said he was walking the entire thing, and I took off as fast as I could when it was runnable, because I was not going to finish behind a walker!  I find 35-40K the most difficult in marathons and 50Ks, and this part of the race had a lot of short but steep technical climbs/descents, numerous water crossings.  I saw a girl in the distance, walking very slowly through the technical parts, but her running pace was very fast.  I assured her that I wasn't last, and she admitted that the climbs were hurting her knees and let me pass.

I had run the last 8K last year, so it was very comforting for me to reach the part that I was familiar with.  There's a lot of dirt road, and less scenic than the first half, but it was great knowing what was coming up. I pride myself on having a good memory of trail landmarks, and it came in handy when I saw apple trees that I remembered, heavy with big ripe sweet and crunchy apples, delicious trail snacks to carry me the last 6K to the finish.

Even though the weather was much warmer than last year, the water crossing with 1K left was much colder than I remembered.  Also, the current was very fast and after I started making my way across, I panicked a bit.  Although there were volunteers on both sides of the river, I would have appreciated a rope to aid with the crossing.  We were also given the option to skip the crossing and take the bridge across, but who wants to run farther than necessary? 

Once the river was crossed, we had to pick our way through a field of medium sized boulders under the bridge.  I saw someone just ahead of me and recognized him as James, who pretty much saved my ass when I bonked at Dirty Girls in 2016.  I know he's a speedy pants so I was surprised to see him.  Turns out he had stomach issues.  Well, I knew it was time to return the good karma - "James, you helped me at DG so I will finish the race with you." 800 metres to the finish, on road, and with a big uphill.  We walked, and then he said we'd run strong to the finish.

Then beers and cream puffs with Bogdan and Shaun.
photo credit: Bogdan
creeeeeeeeam puuuuuuuufffffff
OMG, I loved this race.  Amazing volunteers, great swag, beautiful challenging course.  I thought I was barely going to make the cutoff, and would have been sub 8:30 (one of my faster 50K times) if it weren't for the slow plod across the river.  I'm going to have to put this on my schedule for next year again.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Sticks n' Stones 25K

I'm usually a bit leery of inaugural races - they can end up being a hot mess - but I had no qualms about signing up for Sticks n' Stones 25K. The race directors, Jeff and Heather, are very experienced ultrarunners and I knew they would have thought of every detail to make sure everything went smoothly. In addition, this was a local race and I knew I'd see lots of familiar faces.

Bogdan, Katie, Cody, me, Neil.

Race day was humid and waaaaay too warm for Thanksgiving weekend, thankfully it was overcast, as sun would have made the weather far worse.  This was my first taper long run leading up to The Bad Thing 50K so no goals other than to have fun!  Turned out to be Agnes' birthday as well, so extra fun!

I have always run the Christie Lake loop going counterclockwise, in order to avoid one particular big hill.  At the race preview run, to my surprise, going clockwise, the loop is almost entirely flat or downhill, with the exception of the aforementioned hill, plus one other, so it was very fast.  It seemed like no time at all before returning to the start/finish area, where Rhonda and Clay were volunteering.  Agnes and I yelled to Grace after she wandered off course when she was in a zone.  We walked a bit with #partywiththevarty.  On the final loop, I heard giant stomping footsteps and it was Robin "I knew you'd turn around to see who was that asshole stomping."  Finally, Steve F showed up in the final kilometre to run us in.  It was not my fastest 25K, as I thought at the time, but 2nd fastest, by far.

Bogdan, Agnes, me, Steve F.
I was resting and relaxing when Jeff started the awards, and to my absolute and total shock, I heard my name being called as the winner of the 30-39 age group!  I ran up to the podium, shouting, "HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!!" and I think everyone present who knows my sloth speed history was amazed as well.
My FIRST AG win!!! Maybe my new Burly trucker hat
has magical speed powers?!

My runs during this training cycle have been much faster compared to last year, as I used the same training plan in the summer/fall of 2016, and heading into my A race of the fall season in the glow of happiness.